World economy shifting from West to East through Sheikh Zayed Road – SA Ambassador
The UAE is in a phase now where it will soon have to meet an enormous amount of socioeconomic demand and when that time comes then the human factor investment really pays off, says Yacoob Abba.
September 25, 2012 4:02 by M. Aldalou
Despite having the enormous continent of Africa as an easier alternative with endless resources and substantially less competition, South African business owners still find themselves inevitably attracted to the idea of setting up their ‘business camps’ in the United Arab Emirates.
Speaking to Yacoob Abba, Ambassador at the Embassy of the Republic of South Africa in Abu Dhabi on South Africa’s much celebrated Heritage Day, he tells Kipp that while there is more to be done to truly convince the potential of South African entrepreneurs and business owners to focus on the Middle Eastern markets, he is nevertheless optimistic about the forecasts.
“We definitely hit a few growth spurts over the past few years in terms of South African business expansion in the UAE, particularly in Dubai,” Abba said. There are 230 business of South African origin in the country, most of which are primarily based in Dubai. “Even if they are interested in tapping in other Middle Eastern and GCC markets, having presence in Dubai still makes more sense to them. I think the amount of South African businesses expanding here will continue to grow at a very strong rate.”
The ambassador speaks with much optimism and a true belief in this country’s potential. He highlights not only the strong trading forces of the UAE, from the ports, business positioning and the freedoms that the leaders have afforded both citizens and expatriates, but the very fortunate (and beneficial) geographical position of the Gulf country.
“What many countries don’t realize is that having a high GDP doesn’t paint the whole picture. Many people look at a country’s GDP, they see a number and that’s the end of it. The truth is that investing in the ‘human factor’ is very important. The UAE is in a phase now where it will soon have to meet an enormous amount of socioeconomic demand and when that time comes (in the pipeline) then the human factor investment really pays off. That’s where the leaders here have got it right.”
Yes, sometimes they can be surprised or shocked by certain differences in how business is conducted in the Middle East compared to South Africa. But you can’t forget that many SA business owners and traders are so used to dealing with Africa, which is also a really different and much more informal approach. So, they are normally flexible and familiar with different business styles.
We always make sure to advise those who are thinking of setting up camp here of the nature of the United Arab Emirates, being an Islamic country. We advise them of the cultural sensitiveness, the norms and not to dress in anything too revealing.
Most common industries?
Hard to pick just one really, the UAE is South Africa’s biggest exporter, mostly in the auto mechanical and automotive industry, which is a niche market in South Africa. The auto mechanical industry here is fantastically convenient and efficient for South African investments. Over all, there are companies spread across industries from construction and hospitality to petrochemical.
Strongest argument to come to UAE instead of Africa?
Aside from factors like business efficiency and cost of business, which is a lot cheaper than South Africa, the location is the most important factor. The UAE has it good when speaking of geography, as it is so well connected to the rest of the world and the doors of global trading are open from both ends. The global economy is in transition, slowly moving from the West to the East, through Sheikh Zayed Road. He chuckles.